Playing hooky?

Nine high-ranking employees from the haredi education department are accused of spending time on personal matters during working hours.

Haredim 311 (photo credit:
Haredim 311
(photo credit:
It’s been quite a while since Kikar Safra has experienced such high intrigue. Private detectives hired, secret investigations revealed, confrontations and accusations between inquirers and inquirees – and against whom? Against some of the higher-ranking employees in the haredi education department, the jewel of the haredi members of the coalition! There is anger in the haredi camp against the new director-general of the municipality, and some observers are even talking about a threat to the city’s coalition.
On Wednesday afternoon, the relative calm is torn by ambulance sirens following the blast at the bus stop next to Binyenei Ha’uma: one dead, 38 wounded and that almost forgotten anxiety welling up in our bellies. Social workers on strike run to the location, forgetting their demands for a moment, while the mayor asks his assistants if the festive reception to open the Jerusalem Marathon should be canceled.
At the same time, at Kikar Safra, Yossi Heiman, the newly appointed general director of the municipality, calls each of the nine high-ranking employees of the haredi education department into his office and gives them only 72 hours to resign or face an investigation.
The nine are accused, as it appears from a secret investigation, of having signed in at work while, in fact, they had spent hours on personal matters outside the building. They have since been allowed to receive a hearing on the issue, which will take place shortly.
A few months ago, municipal comptroller Shlomit Rubin received an anonymous complaint regarding the above-mentioned employees and decided to launch an investigation, using the services of a private detective, who followed and filmed the suspects.
“The results of this investigation were crystal clear.
They signed in and went out for various non-professional activities, such as shopping, banking, private events, etc.,” says Rubin.
The results of the investigation were given to Heiman, who decided to take immediate action.
Rubin says that Heiman acted on behalf of Mayor Nir Barkat, or at least with the mayor’s agreement.
Sources close to the general director say that the idea was to present it as a simple case of violating work regulations, without any political interference. “But this, of course, was not very realistic, and whether Heiman is still unaware of the behind-the-scene aspects of this drama or he decided to deliberately turn it into a soap opera, the result is a very high rating for this municipal story,” said a haredi source.
On the haredi side, this opera – soapy or not – sounds quite dissonant. “I don’t understand what’s going on here,” says deputy mayor Yitzhak Pindrus, totally rejecting the accusations against the employees of the haredi education department. “They discovered that they had signed in and, after a while, went to the brit of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv’s secretary’s grandson. Nu shoyn, that’s part of the job to go to that happy event. Does anyone seriously expect an employee of the haredi education department not to show up at such an occasion? And on top of that, since I, as holder of the portfolio, was there too, it was definitely part of their job.”
Pindrus, who recently stopped looking for a new job since the Knesset ruled that Jerusalem is entitled to an eighth deputy mayor – releasing him from the obligation to relinquish his position to city council member Yossi Deitsch – says he believes Barkat was not involved.
“Nir doesn’t know what it is about, just as I don’t understand the whole story. But I’m sure nothing will come out of it,” he says. Pindrus is convinced it was a personal initiative of the new director-general.
“He was a high-ranking military officer and is new here, so he did what military men usually do – they give orders and do things to make their presence felt.
He’ll get used to it. We’ll get used to it. It’s nothing.
Of course, if people cheat, they should be fired, but I don’t think that’s the case.”
The question that remains is: Who sent the anonymous complaint to Rubin? She says that most of the complaints she receives are anonymous and she checks them all. But a source inside the haredi benches says the detractor comes from their own ranks.
According to him, haredi education, the common goal, is not always enough to ensure solidarity.
“Some among them were not always haredim; some belong to different, even opposing clans; there is a lot of friction. There is United Torah Judaism versus Shas. Everyone is suspect.”
And the coalition? “Don’t worry,” laughs Pindrus.
“That’s not a reason to leave the coalition.”